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College raises funds for new life sciences facility

Stephen Lumetta

Senior News Writer

The College of Wooster is drawing up plans for a new life sciences building. This new facility will be in the site where John Gaston Mateer Hall is currently located.

At the most recent Board of Trustees meeting, the trustees selected three architecture firms as finalists from a group of six semi-finalists. The selection process for an architect will conclude shortly, and work with the chosen firm will begin shortly after that — possibly as soon as this December.

There are many reasons the College plans on building a new life sciences facility. One is to connect programs within the broad field of life sciences: not only biology and chemistry, but also biochemistry and molecular biology (BCMB), neuroscience and environmental studies.

“There’s no home for that program,” said Mark Snider, chair of the chemistry department, referring to the BCMB program.

In a document that envisions the future of life sciences at Wooster, an emphasis is placed on multidisciplinary integration of the various fields of study. Faculty have been working on the document, which Snider emphasized is a draft, for the last three years.

“We want the very best building we can get to help with the sciences at Wooster,” said Snider.

President Grant Cornwell said, “Mateer is outdated, inflexible and too small for our current programs or their future.”

Snider echoed these justifications, saying, “We want a modern facility because our current one is unsafe, and in modernizing that facility we hope to make it a much more inviting building for all students to study in. Currently, it’s an eyesore. It’s avoided. We’re hoping to improve safety. We’re hoping to improve the functionality of the building, and third, we’re hoping to create a facility that really works for our mentored undergraduate research program. … We’d like to have dedicated research space for seniors for their I.S. projects so that seniors can have an undisturbed space to do their research.”

The new life sciences building will be located in Mateer’s current location, but what hasn’t been decided yet is whether the College should build an entirely new building or extensively renovate Mateer. Regardless, the environmental impact of the facility is being considered, and Cornwell stated that he has “every confidence that the new facility will be designed with the highest sustainability principles and practices in mind.”

The project’s timeline depends on the success of fundraising efforts. The projected cost of the facility is $40 million.

“My colleagues in [the] Development [Office] and I are devoting a great deal of our effort towards raising funds for the project. It is going well. It is too early to predict how long it will take us to achieve our goal, but I am optimistic,” said Cornwell.

Their efforts have gone well thus far. Trustee Ruth Whitmore Williams and A. Morris Williams, Jr. gave $10 million to help fund the construction of the new life sciences building, and trustee Doon Allen Foster and John Foster recently announced a donation of $2 million for the building. Total funds toward the project have reached $14.3 million, according to the College’s website. All of it will go towards building an updated life sciences building.

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